When I went to Roscoe Vale primary school I liked a girl called Gayle. She was my partner at the ball. Even though it was a state school they had a formal ball and they had a photo of me all done up with a bow tie and holding Gayle's hand and she was in a ball gown. After two years I changed to East Mount primary school. I had some good teachers and good times there. There was Mr Dobson in Year Four who used to teach us to answer the telephone correctly. Every week he would set us a challenge, such as: 'Find out about Cleopatra's needle.' We'd have to go and look it up and make a little report. Mrs Jensen had a tape recorder and I was fascinated by that. This was probably when they first came out in portable form and I used to make tapes of funny horse race commentary calls. For example: 'And here is Chewing Gum, he's stuck at the starting line.' During my primary school years I used to do an annual magic show for the class using my dad's collection of magic tricks. It later became obvious to me that all the main elements of my work were established at this stage: a sense of humour, the love of creative writing and performance. Primary school was a very happy experience for me and I set my 'Just' series of books there. Danny was my best friend and someone who would challenge the rules a lot, unlike me. So I used him and drafted him into my books. There was also a girl called Lisa who I liked. So when I created the main character Andy, I gave him this girl as a girlfriend he's always in love with and trying to impress but it's always going wrong. I used her real name. Recently she read the book with one of her children and got in touch to ask me: 'Is that me?' It turns out her husband went to high school with the girl who is now my wife. Later, I went to the private Yarra Valley Boys' School which was fantastic. It was a reasonably new school established in the mid-sixties and the headmaster was incredibly progressive and liberal. So the creative arts were fostered powerfully and were genuinely valued unlike at a lot of the other private schools in Melbourne which tended to emphasise the sporting culture. For a budding creative writer I couldn't have been in a better place. The school magazine was full of creative pieces with one or two pages of sports reports. I was drafted on to the school magazine committee in Year Seven. I had produced about five editions of my own [duplicated] magazine and sold between 100 and 200 copies at three Aussie cents each. I didn't even get the money as somebody stole it all from the teacher's office. I became quite rebellious in my last couple of years. We had a Year 12 common room that had walls covered with fascinating graffiti built up over 15 years. We younger students would only get tantalising glimpses and looked forward to the day when we would inherit the room and be able to add to it. I remember my shock on my first day of Year 12 to find the prefects had decided to clean up the room and paint it a boring cream colour. They marked a line at shoulder height and said we could write only in the space beneath it. Of course that was like a red rag to a bull and I was the first to break the rule. I spent most of the year generally messing up and destroying the room. I had a teacher called Bechervoise who wrote poetry. That really impressed me. In a way he was the first writer I met and he was just an inspirational role model. He introduced me to J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye which was hugely influential. We had a good librarian too. She had a wide range of books. I remember one called Thirteen Ways to Dispose of a Corpse: quite inappropriate for a school but that's exactly what you need. It fascinated me and it's something I like to do, that is write books that are a little bit different and that intrigue kids. A lot of my early writing was done mucking around at the back of the class. To keep ourselves entertained a group of friends formed an imaginary rock band called 'Through School' that became a bit of a running joke. I would write song lyrics and we designed album covers and planned our own world tours and were always sacking each other and rejoining. We put the band together for real and put on a concert for the rest of the school on the last day even though I could barely sing. It was very well received.